Originally created 12/16/06

Jury deliberates in murder trial



SAVANNAH, Ga. - Jurors deliberated for more than seven hours without reaching a verdict Friday in the trial of three men charged with murdering a 19-year-old debutante who was shot during a mugging last Christmas Eve.

The jury of seven women and five men asked to be served dinner at the courthouse and planned to continue deliberating late into Friday evening. If they still could not reach a verdict, they would return today. Jurors had deliberated for more than eight hours since Thursday.

Ms. Ross was shot Dec. 24 shortly after 3 a.m. when muggers ambushed her and three of her friends in Savannah's downtown historic district. Hours earlier, she had been presented as a debutante at the city's Christmas Cotillion.

Ms. Ross died a week later, on New Year's Day, at the hospital where her father is an executive. The slaying sparked a public outcry among Savannah political and business leaders who are friends of the Ross family.

All three defendants - Michael Thorpe, 26, Webster Wilson, 25, and Kevin Huckabee, 21 - face mandatory life sentences if convicted of Ms. Ross' murder.

Jurors heard six days of testimony and legal arguments in Chatham County Superior Court before they began deliberating for about an hour Thursday evening.

Prosecutors say Mr. Thorpe shot Ms. Ross in the back after she refused to give up her purse. They say Mr. Wilson pistol-whipped Brett Finely, one of Ms. Ross' friends, and held him at gunpoint. Mr. Huckabee is accused of driving the getaway car.

Jurors asked Friday to listen again to a taped police interview in which Ms. Ross' friend Brannen Miles said he saw a white man with a blond goatee. They also listened again to tapes of emergency 911 calls reporting the shooting.